Former Montana Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau is officially Seattle’s new schools’ boss.
The city’s School Board unanimously approved a $295,000 first-year contract with Juneau on Wednesday, with additional benefits and incentives. She begins work July 1.
Juneau, who lives in Missoula, is Seattle’s first Native American school superintendent. She won the job over two other finalists after a series of public and private interviews earlier this month.
“Those of us in leadership have an obligation to do right by every student in this great city,” Juneau told board members after Wednesday’s vote. “As long as we continue to keep students at the center of our collective work … it will be hard to go wrong.”
Seattle Public Schools issued a statement saying: “The Board is excited to build on the great work happening for many of our students. … “Ms. Juneau has committed her adult life to ensuring young people have access to quality education.”
The three-year contract approved at Wednesday’s meeting has a yearly option for renewal. Juneau will earn a $15,000 bonus if she and the School Board adopt a new strategic plan for Seattle Public Schools and complete a superintendent performance review by June 2019.
She will earn another $30,000 bonus if she remains in the district for five years. In addition, the board will pay Juneau’s moving and car expenses. She must reside in Seattle within six months, under the contract’s provisions.
At a forum during the interview process, Juneau talked about her experience in Montana creating a more inclusive educational environment for all families and a more successful education experience for all students.
“I have never met a parent – never – that did not want a better life for their child,” Juneau said. “And that always comes through education.
“And so I am a big believer in making sure that people are at the table, that communities have a voice. I’ve always said that we don’t need a higher wall, we need a longer table. We need to find the people who don’t feel included to be sitting at that table, and then really listen.”
“We are talking about a public education system, and so we need to listen to the public,” Juneau said.
Juneau served two terms as Montana’s superintendent of public instruction, during which she led the statewide initiative Graduation Matters Montana, an effort that made a significant difference in graduation rates statewide.
In 2016, barred by term limits from running for a third term as state superintendent, Juneau was the Democratic nominee for Montana’s sole U.S. House seat. She lost to incumbent Rep. Ryan Zinke, who was then named Secretary of Interior by President Donald Trump.
Juneau was the first Native American woman to hold statewide elected office in Montana. She is an enrolled member of the Mandan Hidatsa Tribes and a descendant of the Blackfeet Tribe. She has a master’s degree in education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and a juris doctorate from the University of Montana’s Blewett School of Law.